Mindful Eating: Savor the Moment

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“Mindful eating” is an emerging term in nutrition research. It involves removing outside distractions and acknowledging all of the senses while eating. By eating mindfully, the pace of eating is slowed; this allows the body to signal that it is full and helps to prevent overeating.

Research is showing that this may help decrease the amount of high-fat, high-sugar and salty foods eaten at one sitting. This is important because eating too much of these nutrients can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

As a dietitian, I have used mindful eating as a tool to help people with weight loss. Utilizing all of the senses while eating can be difficult at the beginning. Here are some tips that may help:

• While preparing meals, notice the colors, texture, and appearance of the ingredients.

• Cutting, peeling and cooking food offers a great chance to note the different smells of the individual items as well as how those can change as they are combined together.

• Listen to the sizzling of a hot meal or the crunch of vegetables as they are chopped.

• When the meal is ready, pay close attention to the flavors and taste. Is it sweet, salty, spicy, bitter or maybe a combination of these?

• Also observe the temperature and texture. Is it smooth, soft, crunchy or maybe grainy?

Another factor to eating mindfully is eliminating outside distractions that often are a result of trying to multitask. Snacking on foods in front of the TV or computer has been linked in past research studies to overeating.

By shifting the focus to the food, it is believed that the person becomes more aware when the body signals that it is full. It takes about 15 minutes for this signal to occur, which is why it is encouraged to slow down and enjoy each bite.

Mindful eating can be practiced with a morning cup of coffee, a special dessert or any snack. Some people even find a change in preference to certain foods; suddenly, foods that they liked to mindlessly snack on taste too salty or sweet. Eating mindfully should be a positive and enjoyable experience.

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, health, wellness and nutrition, please contact Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 910-997-8255.